BK polyomavirus (BKPyV) is a small, non-enveloped dsDNA virus that infects 70-90% of the world's population and causes a lifelong, silently persistent infection. In immunocompromised individuals, BKPyV replication can result in serious pathology. Bone marrow transplant patients can develop a haemorrhagic cystitis, and in kidney transplant patients BKPyV replication can provoke a nephropathy that leads to deterioration of allograft function and eventual loss of the transplanted organ. There are currently no antiviral treatments with clinical efficacy against BKPyV associated nephropathy.

While the life cycles of non-enveloped viruses are often assumed to require cell lysis to release progeny virions, we have evidence to suggest that BKPyV exits the cell via non-lytic means using an unconventional secretory pathway. We have investigated the effects of knocking out cellular genes thought to be involved in unconventional secretory pathways that bypass the Golgi apparatus on the release of BKPyV. We observe decreased BKPyV release from cells that have undergone CRISPR-mediated knockout of Golgi Reassembly Stacking Protein (GORASP) 1 or 2. Investigation of BKPyV-induced changes to the plasma membrane of infected cells demonstrated increased cell surface expression of transmembrane proteins normally resident in the endoplasmic reticulum. This appears to be inhibited by the knockout of GORASP1 or 2, suggesting that virions and ER markers are secreted via a common pathway in infected cells. These experiments are uncovering novel virus-host interactions that, when targeted, could help prevent BKPyV-associated nephropathy and allograft loss.

  • This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License.

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